Note: This has been cross-posted on my previous former employer’s company’s blog, which . Furthermore, my company offers virtual events solutions.
Over the past year, virtual events (e.g. virtual conference, virtual tradeshow, etc.) have gained in popularity due to the economic recession and budget restrictions. As more conferences consider a virtual companion to a physical conference or even going virtual all together, this represents a new arena for public relations professionals:
- - No longer can you stand outside the press room and grab journalists for an impromptu interview
- - You don’t have to walk or run a mile to get from one meeting to another with your client close behind
- - What? – no late night cocktails with the reporter listening to a band from the 80’s?
How Public Relations Can Take Advantage of a Virtual Event
All kidding aside, I think this is something that will become more commonplace. Here are my recommendations the next time your client attends an event with a virtual component:
* Staff the Booth: In a virtual world, there are no limitations on the number of booth staff. Your team can now staff a virtual booth alongside your customer. You will get to read what customers and prospects are seeking, which will make you more informed about your customer’s business. When a media or analyst comes to the booth, you would be the go-to person.
* Include Media-Ready Content in the Booth: Depending on the virtual event, the client will have 3-5 tabs for content. Recommend that one tab includes information that would be valuable to press and analysts, such as fact sheets, company backgrounder, link to the corporate blog, link to your online newsroom, and other resources.
* Participate in the Networking Lounge and Auditorium Chats: Most of the participants are in these two locations. Participate in these discussions as reporters may be asking questions of attendees, seeking resources, or participating in a subject-matter discussion. If the topic discusses your company or product, consider inviting the reporter to a private chat or to come by the booth to learn more. As everything, just make sure to be relevant to the reporter.
* Hold a “Virtual Press Conference” in Your Booth: Like a physical event, you can schedule time to have a “virtual press conference” for an announcement and Q&A with your executives. The benefit is that you can potentially drive more participants as there are not travel requirements. The Q&A would take place via the group chat, recognizing that this is visible to everyone. And remember, this takes the same amount of preparation as a normal press conference!
* Invite Press/Analyst to the Virtual Event: Virtual conference and tradeshows are fairly uncommon. If this is one of the first events in your industry, then press and analysts may be curious to learn more. Take this opportunity to invite them to the virtual event and discuss why your company is participating in the virtual trade show. Just be aware that registration is required to attend. Since most of this is free, consider setting up email aliases, e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org, to manage reminders directly with the reporter. Otherwise, have the reporter sign up directly.
In the end, a virtual conference or trade show represents an opportunity for public relations. I’ve heard of a few instances where press and analysts have been invited to invitation-only events online, I do anticipate this to increase as larger, more public conferences consider virtual components. When this happens, will you be prepared?
I wanted to point everyone to a new resource, B2B Marketing Zone, that launced last week. Brought together by Tom Pick of The Web Market Central and Tony Karrer of eLearning Technology, the website brings together top bloggers and topics on B2B marketing into one place.
I was honored to be asked to participate. I recommend taking a look – there are a lot of topics relevant to B2B marketers. And I hate to say this, but for PR folks out there, you can research relevant marketing-related bloggers in one place. Just one word of advice, READ the blogs before pitching!
Any other resources to consider?
I noticed this series of tweets with Chris Heuer, Social media Club Founder, on Twitter the last couple of days.
Before I continue, I do want to disclose that I was previously employed with the company that Chris is referencing in his tweets. The purpose of this post is to solely highlight the increased use of social media for sales, customer service, and customer feedback.
Now back to where I was headed =) In the past, most of these sales and customer support activities were done out of the public eye either through customer advisory boards, email customers surveys and other communications methods. However, as more potential and current customers seek information from trusted sources, that is our social graph and friend networks, these previously “secret” processes are being brought to the surface.
From a sales perspective, I recently wrote about the pros and cons of using Twitter for sales prospecting. In this case, we are now seeing how one has to be careful with connecting with customers with social media, especially with someone like Chris who has over 10,000 followers. Here are my recommendations for engaging with prospects or customers via social media:
- * Acknowledge the Person’s Feedback: In this case, Chris was unhappy with the amount of time it took for a response and when he was finally contacted, the level of understanding for his business. By recognizing these two points, the company would have acknowledged their mistake. As Alli Gerkman wrote recently, “Sometimes ‘Sorry’ is the Best PR”
- * Take It Offline: The first tendency is to want to respond via social media to tell your side of the story. While I would have also responded via Twitter back to Chris, my message would be about connecting offline. This way, you demonstrate that you are listening online and being proactive.
- * Personalize the Brand: I realize there is a lot of discussion about having a “corporate” brand on Twitter vs personal ones. I strongly believe that a corporation should have a corporate brand. With that said, I have also recognized the value of “personalizing” who is managing the Twitter feed. And so your corporate brand isn’t associated with anyone person, you can say that the marketing team or a couple people are responsible for the Twitter feed. In this case, I am unsure who is responding back to Chris.
These are just a few of my ideas – what do you think?
UPDATE: The company subsequently sent a tweet to Chris apologizing with a plan to call him today.
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Cut and paste into Twitter:
Using Social Media for Customer Support – three things to consider by @csalomonlee: http://bit.ly/UnRQs
This morning, I sent out a tweet asking for feedback about press release newswires. A few hours later, I received an email from a company regarding news monitoring service. To protect the innocent, the email started:
Cece, thank you for your interest in [company]. Here’s some basic information
I was a bit confused as I 1) didn’t recognize the name of the company or person and 2) didn’t remember downloading/submitting anything related to news monitoring. Curious, and partially to keep a mental note for future reference, I asked how I demonstrated interest in the company. The response?:
“Forgive me Cece, I meant to send this to you referring to your posting on Twitter but failed to. We monitor mentions of the newswire services and your posting was sent to me as a lead.”
Interesting and scary at the same time. While I do see Twitter becoming a real-time source for sales leads, especially when directly related to your product and services, I think there are some best practices to follow:
1. Reference Source: As the sales person acknowledged, he/she forgot to highlight that this was based on my Twitter posting.
2. Relevancy: My initial request was feedback on newswires – not media monitoring. It seems like any post with certain keywords are being forwarded as prospective leads which leads me to
3. Context: Be sure to understand the context of a person’s original tweet
4. Tweet Me, Don’t Email Me: This is where the big brother part freaked me out. Yes, my email address is on my blog but I used Twitter for a reason. I wanted to get feedback from Twitter. Unless you’re a friend of mine, I don’t expect a response via email from a stranger – Side note – I don’t anticipate a sales person to go through the effort of gonig to my blog for email and since I don’t have it on my Twitter profile…how did he/she get my email?!
5. Add Value: To me, Twitter is about engaging in a conversation or seeing what my friends/contacts are doing. If you want to respond to me, add value to the conversation.
In the end, just because you track down a possible lead on Twitter, Linkedin, or some other way, there are certain best practices that sales folks need to practice. What do you think? Any other tips for marketing folks mining social media for sales prospects?
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Cut and paste this: Twitter used for sales lead prospects – 5 tips for doing this well by @csalomonlee: http://bit.ly/ilL0X
A couple of weeks ago, I met up with Jason Falls of Doe Anderson and Social Media Explorer. After a beautiful meal at Il Fornaio with Jason and his wife, we sat down for a quick video about social media and communciations strategies. Here is a summaryof this video.
Communications Strategy: Traditional and Social Media
* Communications strategies for traditional PR is typically one that looks at talking points and messages we want to communicate via traditional media
* Traditional media is about one-way communciations with the audience
* With social media, traditional media is no longer part of this as now you’re going direct to the consumer
* No longer is it one-way communications. It’s about how you can create a strategy to communicate these talking points in a conversational way
Different for B2B and B2C?
- Not necessarily as B2B is in between the two extremes of traditional media and social media
- Regardless if this is B2B or B2C, social media requires a conversation
- How can you be nimble in your conversations
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PRMM Interview with Jason Falls regarding social media and communications strategy by @csalomonlee: http://twurl.nl/a70p7g
My husband likes to say that everything we do for public relations is basically bull crap. I always argue with him that public relations fills an important role in how company’s present themselves to the public. It never seems to work because his point is that companies are just lying to consumers and the public to sell more stuff. When he points to how oil, car, pharmaceutical, etc. companies market themselves, it’s sometimes hard to argue. In fact, he’ll even point to an instance when a spokesperson blatantly lied to better position his or her company.
I admit, he does have a point. As public relations professionals, what is our ethical obligation to our clients, and ourselves, if we know that a client is pushing the edge of truth? At what point does “messaging” become “lying”? And do private companies “get away” with more than public ones?
And what if you see a competitor blatantly lying or contradicting previously stated comments, do you have an ethical obligation to point this out to a reporter?
From my perspective, we as an industry have a bad rap for being flacks precisely because there are some PR practitioners out there who are willing to push the edge alongside with their clients. One “small” lie can quickly avalanche into new products and features to stay top of mind with reporters, but do your customers a disservice when those features aren’t “technically” available for weeks or months.
But I also have to remind myself that sometimes the clients insist that we go to market with a message that we know in our bones is inaccurate or obfuscating the truth, then what is our ethical obligation? For me, it comes down to my personal ethics. I think we have an obligation to provide our recommendation and if the “lie” is so egregious, to excuse ourselves from that campaign or account entirely or even resign from the company.
What do you think?
In late April, I met Christian Jurink a of Attack Marketing at the Event Marketing Summit. I was intrigued by how guerilla marketing can reach your audience/consumers and drive them to action. And yes, that is a champion sumo wrestler in the background. Attack does work for a sumo organization and have adopted him as their “mascot.” Here is a quick summary of our conversation:
Economy’s Impact on Guerilla Marketing
1. As budgets are being constricted, really need to be more creative to connect with consumers
2. Guerilla marketing is a cost-effective way to do that while honing in on your consumers and talking with them there
Key Benefits of Guerilla Marketing
1. Proximity marketing – it’s about honing and finding key consumer and being near them
2. About driving people to retail and converting to a sell
3. Can be anywhere your consumers are and driving them to retail
Cece Salomon-Lee is director of product marketing for Lanyon Solutions, Inc. and author of PR Meets Marketing, which explores the intersection of public relations, marketing, and social media.
This blog contains Cece's personal opinions and are not representative of her company's.
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